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“The buck stops nowhere”: Meet the corrupt new elite running (and ruining) our economy

  • Talking about old systems of power and corruption doesn't begin to capture new realities.
  • "Unaccountable" author Janine Wedel takes on Larry Summers, Citigroup and the sins of the Clinton administration.
  • They won, we lost: How corruption became America’s national pastime
  • George Carlin "The American Dream" 

Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet 

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wolf_wall_street.jpgJordan Belfort and Gordon Gekko

Thursday, May 7, 2015 | Social anthropologist Janine Wedel, author, most recently, of Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt Our Finances, Freedom, and Security, has spent decades getting to the bottom of how powerful people wield influence. In her view, old ways of talking about formal systems of power and corruption don’t begin to capture new realities. Truth and transparency, she warns, have devolved into performance art. The buck stops nowhere. Could women be particularly suited to disrupt the unaccountability structured into the DNA of many of today’s financial, corporate and governmental organizations? Wedel weighs in. (Accountability is a key topic in a May 5-6 conference sponsored by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, “Finance and Society,” which features Brooksley Born, Elizabeth Warren, and other influential women who have challenged corrupt systems of power.)

Lynn Parramore: You’ve discussed a fascinating new kind of power broker on the world stage—a nimble, opportunistic person who floats between private and public institutions. How has this figure operated in the financial arena? Are such players different from lobbyists and other traditional influence peddlers? Can you give some examples?

Janine Wedel: In the financial arena, a well-known duo is Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, both former treasury secretaries. Rubin reached the heights at Goldman Sachs. He then went to Treasury in the 1990s, then on to Citigroup. In the lead-up to the financial crash, both Goldman and Citigroup earned billions on the unregulated derivatives he and Summers (and others) championed while in public office.

Lynn Stuart Parramore is contributing editor at AlterNet. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of "Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture." She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU.

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Janine%20E.%20Wedel%20%7C%20Unaccountable%20jacket%20cover.jpgThey won, we lost: How corruption became America’s national pastime

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George Carlin "The American Dream" 

  • Best 3 Minutes of His Career
  • "There's a reason education SUCKS, and it's the same reason that it will never, ever, ever be fixed. It's never going to get any better, don't look for it, be happy with what you've got. Because the owners of this country don't want that. I'm talking about the REAL owners, now.
  • The REAL owners, the BIG WEALTHY business interests that control things and make all the important decisions -- forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. YOU DON'T. You have no choice. You have OWNERS. They OWN YOU. They own EVERYTHING. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations; they've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the State houses, the City Halls; they've got the judges in their back pockets, and they own all the big media companies so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear. They gotcha by the BALLS. 
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Obama’s “No Growth, No Jobs, No Recovery” Economy Gives Up The Ghost

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  • GDP Downer
  • Translation: The economy is in the shitter.

Mike Whitney, Counterpunch

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Upward%20Mobility%20Works.jpgApril 30, 2015 | The world’s biggest economy ground to a standstill in the first quarter of 2015 wracked by massive job losses in the oil sector, falling personal consumption, weak exports and droopy fixed investment. Real gross domestic product (GDP), the value of the production of goods and services in the US, increased at an abysmal annual rate of just 0.2 percent in Q1 ’15 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis demonstrating conclusively that 6 years of zero rates and Large-Scale Asset Purchases (LSAP)– which have enriched stock speculators, inflated the largest asset-price bubble in history, and exacerbated inequality to levels not seen since the Gilded Age– have done nothing to improve the real economy, boost demand or reduce unemployment. As the BEA data illustrates, the US economy is basically DOA, a victim of criminal congressional negligence and Central Bank chicanery.

From the BEA release: “The deceleration in real GDP growth in the first quarter reflected a deceleration in PCE, downturns in exports, in nonresidential fixed investment, and in state and local government spending, and a deceleration in residential fixed investment that were partly offset by a deceleration in imports and upturns in private inventory investment and in federal government spending.”

Translation: The economy is in the shitter.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). 

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the Republic

  • TPP is blatantly unconstitutional. But as Joe Firestone observes, neo-liberalism and corporate contributions seem to have blinded the deal's proponents so much that they cannot see they are selling out the sovereignty of the United States to foreign and multinational corporations.
  • TPP Leak Reveals Extraordinary New Powers for Thousands of Foreign Firms to Challenge U.S. Policies and Demand Taxpayer Compensation

Ellen Brown, Huffington Post

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"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." -- Article IV, Section 4, US Constitution

stopp-tppa.jpg04/24/2015 | A republican form of government is one in which power resides in elected officials representing the citizens, and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison defined a republic as "a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people . . . ."

On April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that would override our republican form of government and hand judicial and legislative authority to a foreign three-person panel of corporate lawyers.

Ellen Brown: Author, Web of Debt, Public Bank Solution; President, Public Banking Institute

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Related:

TPP Leak Reveals Extraordinary New Powers for Thousands of Foreign Firms to Challenge U.S. Policies and Demand Taxpayer CompensationPublic Citizen

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  • Unveiling of Parallel Legal System for Foreign Corporations Will Fuel TPP Controversy, Further Complicate Obama’s Push for Fast Track
  • Stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Deal

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Series | Capitalism Unmasked: Part 5: Capitalism and the destruction of life on Earth: Six theses on saving the humans

 

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  • AlterNet Editor's Note: When harmful beliefs plague a population, you can bet that the 1% is benefiting. This article is part of a new AlterNet series, "Capitalism Unmasked," edited by Lynn Parramore and produced in partnership with author Douglas Smith and Econ4 to expose the myths and lies of unbridled capitalism and show the way to a better future.
  • Previously in this series
  • Approaching the End of Human History?
  • Austerity, Debt & Environmental Degradation
  • George Carlin | “The Planet Is Fine”

Richard Smith, Institute for Policy Research & Development

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ABPub/2011/01/31/2014092742.gif2013/07/02 | Sleepwalking to extinction

When, on May 10th, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii announced that global CO2 emissions had crossed a threshold at 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in millions of years, a sense of dread spread around the world and not only among climate scientists. CO2 emissions have been relentlessly climbing since Charles David Keeling first set up his tracking station near the summit of Mauna Loa Observatory in 1958 to monitor average daily global CO2 levels. At that time, CO2 concentrations registered 315ppm. CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have been relentlessly climbing ever since and, as the records show, temperatures rises will follow. For all the climate summits, the promises of “voluntary restraint,” the carbon trading and carbon taxes, the growth of CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations has not just been relentless, it has been accelerating in what scientists have dubbed the “Keeling Curve”. In the early 1960s, CO2ppm concentrations in the atmosphere grew by 0.7ppm per year. In recent decades, especially as China has industrialized, the growth rate has tripled to 2.1ppm per year. In just the first 17 weeks of 2013, CO2 levels jumped by 2.74ppm compared to last year -- “the biggest increase since benchmark monitoring stations high on the Hawaiian volcano of Mauna Loa began taking measurements in 1958.”1 Carbon concentrations have not been this high since the Pliocene period, between 3m and 5m years ago, when global average temperatures were 3 or 4C hotter than today, the Arctic was ice-free, sea levels were about 40m higher, jungles covered northern Canada, while Florida was under water, along with coastal locations we now call New York city, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney and many others. Crossing this threshold has fueled fears that we are fast approaching “tipping points” – melting of the subarctic tundra or thawing and releasing the vast quantities of methane in the Arctic sea bottom – that will accelerate global warming beyond any human capacity to stop it: “I wish it weren't true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400-ppm level without losing a beat," said Scripps Institute geochemist Ralph Keeling whose father Charles Keeling set up the first monitoring stations in 1958: “At this pace, we’ll hit 450 ppm within a few decades.” “It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.2

Richard Smith: Institute for Policy Research & Development Research Associate, ecological historian

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Previously in this series: 

Elites say that we need inequality to encourage the rich to invest and the creative to invent. That’s working out well — for 1% pooches.

The long-running General Electric slogan sums up what capitalist cheerleaders love to say about markets: "We bring good things to life."

The awful experience of the Great Depression made clear to many economists and laymen alike that credit is at the heart of a functioning capitalist system. Without access to credit, many businesses die and many individuals and households run out of money and go bankrupt.

The symbol of capitalism was lately a vampire. Enter the CEO with nipple clamps.

Related:

 

Approaching the End of Human History? Noam Chomsky, In These Times <>

  • The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.
  • The short, strange era of human civilization may be drawing to a close. 
  • The UN’s New Report on Global Warming Is the Most Terrifying Yet
  • 5 Crucial Lessons for the Left From Naomi Klein’s New Book

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Austerity, Debt & Environmental Degradation, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance

  • System-is-guilty-e1428169582149.jpgOur individual struggles are against system-wide problems and when the people are united, we can win. Let’s keep building solidarity and unity of action so the muscle of people power grows.
  • The fracking struggle: a distorted reflection of America’s decomposing democracy

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George Carlin | “The Planet Is Fine”, George Carlin, Gospel of Reason

There is nothing wrong with the planet. Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The people are fucked. Difference. Difference. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great. Been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the conceit to think that somehow we’re a threat? That somehow we’re gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that’s just a-floatin’ around the sun?

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